[CT Birds] Bluff Point - full report

Chris Elphick elphick at sbcglobal.net
Sat Sep 9 15:39:44 EDT 2017

OK, so here's the full Bluff Point report.  As Glenn said, this was one of the best early fall flights I've seen for maybe 10 years - reminds me of some of the great days back when I first moved to CT (if only Dave Provencher had been there to identify more of the birds for us!!).  In all, I saw 69 species from ~6-11:30 am, others probably added at least 5-10 more species.  Morning flight and walk through woods produced 8200 warblers (mostly flying out between 6:20 and 8ish, but with at least a few 100 coming out after that).  This is a little less than Glenn reported, but when he and I spoke I hadn't tallied numbers carefully.  Also, my numbers are all going to be low counts as it was hard to track numbers, and many birds were undoubtedly missed when birds were streaming through at their peak.

Including observations by others, there were at least 20 species of warbler: Ovenbird,Blue-winged (1 - seen by Russ Smiley), Worm-eating (1 in woods), Black-and-white, Tennessee, Nashville, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded (3 flew out), American Redstart (~935 identified), Northern Parula, Magnolia, Bay-breasted (at lest 2 flew out), Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Blackpoll, Black-throated Blue, Prairie (at least 2), Black-throated Green, Canada (at least 2), Wilson's (3 flew out). 
Also, 6 species of flycatcher, 4 species of vireo, >80 thrushes (mostly veerys), at least 27 gnatcatchers, 31 tanagers, 19 grosbeaks, etc., etc., etc.

My sightings are split into two eBird checklists, one for the morning flight, here:http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39082854

And one for the subsequent walk through the woods here:http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S39084075

For those of you unfamiliar with Bluff Point it is a state park in Groton (google it for directions) and is one of the premier sites for fall migration in the state.  BUT (and this is important) it is only worth a visit under specific conditions, several of which aligned today: NW winds overnight (check the weather report for the Groton airport), lots of birds migrating (check the overnight radar), and several days of "blocking weather" (i.e., winds from the S, or at least not from the N) that backs up migrants.  Some days, even if conditions seem pretty good, it can be dead.  And if the wind is in the S, it can be completely migrant-free.  I say all this because it is important not to expect every morning to be like today (few are, but even 500 warblers is a good day).
Other key things to know are that the main flight starts early (at or just before dawn), and usually lasts for only an hour or two.  The woods can be good after that, but you won't see 100s-1000s of warblers unless you arrive early.  Also, most birds are seen flying by quickly, usually directly overhead, and often pretty high up.  So, it can be an exercise in frustration for anyone who wants to be able to identify most of what they see.  Today, birds were mostly at treetop level, quite a lot landed, albeit briefly, in the trees, and the light was good - so our identification rate (maybe 10% of birds??) was higher than is often the case.  

Based on the radar, a lot of birds moved last night, so I'd guess there will be fewer birds tomorrow, but there could still be a reasonable flight if the winds are in the right direction.  Right now the winds look promising, but there are no guarantees (e.g., if the wind swings NE or W then it could be a dud).  

One last thing: the hotspot marker in eBird is NOT placed at the spot where you need to stand to see the morning flight - it is down by the main parking lot, which is a lousy place to actually see the flight.  Instead, park immediately after going under the railroad bridge and walk 20 yards or so up the dirt road that goes east, and stand by the chain link fence facing south.  Birds come out of the woods and fly right over your head going inland.  The woods to the immediate east of here have a set of trails in them that are good to walk once the main flight is over. (Greg - if there's a way to get that marker moved in eBird it would probably help people out ... also, sorry for all the high count alerts for you to approve!)  For more info on the site, go and dig through the ctbirds archives for Dave Provencher's old descriptions on how to bird the site, and why it is so go (these may also be on the COA web site somewhere).


Chris Elphick @ssts 
Storrs, CT 
elphick at sbcglobal.net

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